The use of computer techniques for selecting candidates for pilot training is on the increase.

Brian Walters/MAASTRICHT

IT COSTS A GREAT DEAL to train an airline pilot (around £100,000) and even more (about £2 million) to train a fighter pilot - which is why the concept of using scientific methods for the selection of candidates for training is being applied around the world.

Many of today's computerised aircrew-selection systems have their origins in the rudimentary devices intended to assess dexterity. The science of selection has moved on since the early days, and now includes skills in psychology and computer technology.

There is evidence that the application of computerised aircrew-selection techniques has led to substantial savings for the German air force, which, since 1987, has made increasing use of a system devised by CAE Electronics. In sharing primary- and advanced-training bases with the USA, the Germans perceived that the US Air Force was having more success with its selection of candidates for pilot training, and this led to CAE being invited to develop a solution for Germany.


In co-operation with the German armed forces' psychological services, CAE first developed the FPS-80 screening system and then, working with the Society for Applied Psychological Research (GAPF), established the ICA-90 primary selection system. Both systems create a series of screen-based tests, varying from simple aircraft manoeuvring techniques to complex mathematical calculations. Candidates may be tested for anything from 2-4h, and are often subjected to outside pressures such as noise or flashing lights.

A recent analysis of more than 1,000 candidates assessed by the German air force Institute of Aviation Medicine has validated the effectiveness of the CAE approach. Between 1987 and 1993, the performance of 806 candidates for jet pilot training was monitored, and the fall-out rate among those with low scores in the evaluation system proved to be ten times higher than that of those recording the highest scores.

As others working on computer-based pilot-selection systems in Canada, France, Israel, the UK and the USA have found, it is no simple matter even to develop a framework on which to judge the performance of candidates. CAE uses the services of the GAPF both empirically, to evaluate each system after installation, to ensure maximum accuracy, and also to improve the predictive validity of the system.

Aided by Professor Peter Braun of the GAPF, the system has proved adaptable for use in countries with different cultures. It is now being used to select candidates in China, for instance, who have had far less close contact with modern technology than have students in Europe.

Having studied all the available ways to improve its selection procedures, the Maastricht, Netherlands-based National School of Aviation (NLS) appointed CAE to supply an aircrew-selection system which combines the best of the FPS-80 and ICA-90. This has now become the sole selection method.

The NLS claims to be the first flying school in Europe to be certificated to new ISO 9001 standards. Since the school's choice of the CAE selection system, the head of its theory department, William Bornhaupt, is in no doubt that a considerable reduction in dropouts during training has resulted.

The system is available in three standard models: the CAS-TT (a transportable tabletop version for initial screening); the CAS-OC (an open-cockpit system); and the CAS-CC, which is the most sophisticated, with a closed cockpit.

There is a surplus of qualified civil pilots, but CAE believes that demographic influences, including the fall in the number of young people as a ratio to the total population, will soon make selection more difficult.

The CAS-CC has a mouse and simple keyboard, as well as standard controls

A valuable test in the military FPS-80 system involves steering the aircraft through wire tunnels

The open cockpit CAS-OC has been selected by two Chinese customers

NLS has taken the CAS-CC model in which candidates are closely monitored throughout

Source: Flight International